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Ashton Fan

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  1. As I understand it Hamilton has been given leave of absence for another season. There has been no announcement that she has left the Royal Ballet which is why I said it will be interesting to see how permanent her permanent contract at Dresden turns out to be. As I said there were poor pickings for her in London this season. Hamilton needs greater performance experience than she would have been likely to get at Covent Garden even if this season's repertory had been more suited to her. She is very good in the MacMillan repertory but has surprising weaknesses which reveal themselves when she dances the nineteenth century repertory. I am sure that she knows that she needs to sort the weaknesses out if she wants to get to the very top. The story of how she got her training shows how determined she is to attain her goals.It will be interesting to see how she gets on with La Bayadere at Dresden. The problem for the up and coming dancer at Covent Garden is that management works on the basis that nearly every female principal will give us her Manon, her Odette Odile and her Juliet, As each of them usually get three performances of these lead roles it leaves little opportunity for the First Soloists and more junior dancers to get a shot at any of those roles. It looked as if management was addressing this problem this season when Hayward and Naghdi were given Juliet and Ball was given Romeo. and some junior dancers like Stix- Brunell, Magri , Hay and Ball were given roles in Pigeons. However the current revival of Giselle has not seen any of the promising younger dancers given an opportunity to dance Giselle or Albrecht and the rest of the season seems to offer few opportunities for them. Kevin O'Hare has the good fortune to have a company full of talent but he needs to select repertory which will develop his young dancers and then actually cast them. The company's use of Salenko as guest artist suggests that O'Hare's priorities are not as focussed on developing his company as they should be. It is not as if there are no talented dancers within the company who could dance with McRae and should have done so in Pigeons and several other ballets in which she has appeared with him. It will be very interesting to see which ballets are selected .for performance next season and even more interesting to see who actually gets to dance in them. The end of season promotions should give a strong indication of the direction the company is going to take. There are three principal positions vacant at present. I can think of dancers who might be in the running for those positions but I am not convinced that O'Hare will necessarily make any appointments at that level this season. I am sure that dancers like Ball, Clarke, Naghdi Stix-Brunell, Heap and O'Sullivan will be promoted.
  2. Melissa Hamilton's presence at Dresden during the 2016-2017 season is apparently with the permission of the Royal Ballet's Artistic Director which raises the question of how permanent the permanent contract will be? It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of next season. The move to Dresden for the 2015-2016 season was a very sensible move by Hamilton as apart from Romeo and Juliet and Sugar Plum Fairy there was not necessarily going to be a great deal for her in the Royal Ballet's choice of repertory this season. She is not an obvious Ashton dancer, there was no guarantee that she would get a chance to dance Giselle and she has not been used much by either Wheeldon or Scarlett in the past, It will be fascinating to see what promotions are made at the end of this season and what action O'Hare takes to develop his younger dancers in the 2016-2017 season through choice of repertory and casting decisions. He managed to give several young dancers opportunities in Two Pigeons but only principal dancers have been cast as Giselle this season which is a great pity. Whatever decisions Melissa Hamilton makes in the future about her career the decision to go to Dresden has given her performances and the opportunity to widen her repertoire.She would not have got the opportunity to dance something comparable to La Bayadere if she had remained in London this season. At Covent Garden management still does not seem to have got the balance right between giving the principals' their dues and developing the next generation.
  3. That Cinderella DVD although old has the considerable advantage of being danced by the Royal Ballet when it was Ashton's own company.There is not a single dancer in it who does not dance the choreography with complete mastery of the style. Unfortunately that is not something that can be said of more recent recordings where there has been a tendency to cast Ashton's ballets according to seniority and box office power than according to the dancers suitability for a role or as an exemplar of the style. On this DVD you get not only Sibley and Dowell as Cinderella and the Prince, Ashton and Helpmann as the Ugly Sisters but Alexander Grant who created the role as the Jester. Georgina Parkinson as the Fairy Godmother and a fine selection of dancers as the Fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In this recording you see the Jester danced as a character rather than a keg machine closely related to the Soviet Jester. There is an older recording made for US television which was broadcast in colour but only preserved in black and white. The cast includes Fonteyn, Somes ,Grant with Ashton and MacMillan as the Ugly Sisters. Cinderella, the fruit of Ashton's "private lessons with Petipa", is Ashton's Imperial Russian ballet, Sylvia is his Empire ballet and Ondine his modern take on the three act ballet using a score by Henze but incorporating a staging of the famous pas de l'ombre which appeared in the most famous nineteenth century ballet on this theme and storm at sea deliberately staged in nineteenth century fashion. As far as Fille is concerned there are four recordings to choose from. The oldest was recorded by the BBC with the original cast of Nadia Nerina, David Blair, Alexander Grant and Stanley Holden. If you want to see what an extraordinary dancer Nerina was this recording is for you. It does not use the sets used in the theatre but that does not matter when you have performances of this quality and freshness. The second recording dates from 1980. The dancers are Leslie Collier, Michael Coleman, Gary Grant and Brian Shaw . Unfortunately Grant was little more than a pale imitation of his older brother. We almost certainly owe this recording to the celebrations of Ashton's eightieth birthday which is a pity because it catches Coleman's Colas a little too late to be ideal. However for me he is still better than either Colas on the later recordings because he dances Ashton idiomatically and well. At the time of this recording he was still the first cast Colas, Collier is a great Lise her footwork is brilliant, and she dances expansively and with vigour. I would have preferred Ronald Emblem as Simone to Brian Shaw. Emblem was a brilliant exponent of the role and his characterisation was far warmer than Shaw's. The best bit of Shaw's performance was always the way he swept of the stage at the end of the clog dance. which has not been preserved. The third recording stars Marianela Nunez, Carlos Acosta with Jonathan Howells and William Tuckett. While it may be true that a new recording was needed the problem is that Acosta is not an ideal Colas. He is not a natural Ashton dancer and clearly finds some of the steps awkward, Nunez on the otter hand is splendid and dances Ashton with real understanding of the style, The fourth is the recently released recording starring Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae with Paul Kay and Philip Moseley. The first night cast of Laura Morera, Vadim Muntagirov, Paul Kay and Will Tuckett had a real warmth to them which was lacking in the cast who appear on DVD. Morera is a fine Ashton dancer she has the footwork and the pliant upper body which the choreography requires. Osipova is a superstar and she is not,as yet, an Ashton dancer. Muntagirov " charmed with the innocence of youth" not something I would accuse McRae of doing. Paul Kay is excellent as Alain and in many other roles created by Alexander Grant, Philip Moseley characterisation is alright but he is not the best clog dancer to have graced the Covent Garden stage. .The recording is fine if you simply want a technician's approach and are happy with a close approximation to the style rather than the real thing.
  4. Our first experiences of ballet teach us how to watch it . We tend to apply those initial experiences to everything we see subsequently and this affects how we understand works created by choreographers with whose style we are unfamiliar. Once you have got your eye in it can be very difficult to fully appreciate a choreographer working in a very different style because he or she is not doing what you have come to expect a choreographer to do. Perhaps it is easier for someone who knows the late nineteenth century Russian repertory to get to appreciate and understand what Balanchine is doing than for someone who comes from a ballet tradition which does not often use formal devices such as processions and does not use dancers in ever changing groupings and patterns. Balanchine creates complex floor patterns just as Ashton does and both choreographers' ideas ultimately derive from late nineteenth century Russian practice. Most people I know sit upstairs at the ballet and would not dream of doing anything else when watching ballets by Balanchine, Ashton, Petipa or Ivanov. You will get so much more from the experience if you do. When you are able to see how the choreographer is moving his dancers round the stage as well as watching the soloists you will truly be seeing the ballet the choreographer created in all its complexity. All of the choreographers who I have mentioned created beautifully balanced complex ballets where the floor patterns for the corps is as important as the soloist's choreography. If you can try to see the same work a couple of times in quick succession. You will see more in it each time you view it .
  5. A richly deserved promotion. She is an exceptionally stylish and elegant dancer. I don't think that anyone who saw her rather than Cojocaru who is off injured will have thought that they were being short changed in any way.
  6. The news that Kaneko is replacing Morera is a real disappointment. Kaneko is not that bad but she is not in the same class as Morera in this role. Any way I hope that you manage to access the performance somehow..
  7. I have always thought that if you are able to do so you should try and see more than one cast performing a work with which you are unfamiliar. There is no guarantee that the first cast or the cast with most big names will be the best cast in any work. As far as Winter's Tale is concerned it is difficult to justify the description " rarely performed" which most of the dance critics have applied to it in their articles about the piece as it seems to have been a regular feature of London theatre life for years. It is no more difficult or complicated than any other Shakespeare play. The late plays are now described as the late plays rather than the "problem plays". It is years since anyone thought of Winter's Tale as little more than a failed reworking of Othello. I know several people who are keen theatre goers who say that it is their favourite Shakespeare play I understand that many ballet goers want narrative works. Not every new work is going to be a great one but Wheeldon's Winter's Tale shows how much he has learnt since making Alice. It has always seemed to me that both Ashton and Balanchine benefitted from their time working in the commercial theatre. As Balanchine said of Ashton and himself they may have made bad ballets but they did not make boring ones. I have no doubt that Wheeldon's experience in working on An American in Paris will feed into any other narrative works he makes. I am pleased that the Royal Ballet is once more a creative company and that it is able to work with the National Ballet of Canada. I don't expect to like every new work that the Royal Ballet produces and have not liked all of them. I have a long list of ballets that need to be revived beginning with the Diaghilev repertory, including a lot of Ashton and some of MacMillan's classical ballets. It seems to me that dwelling on the past is just as unhealthy for a ballet company as treating everything that is new as something to be treasured merely because it is novel. I think That Wheeldon has done remarkably well with Winter's Tale. I think that those who are able to do so should buy tickets for a couple of different casts see the ballet and make up their own minds about it. I hope some who go tell the forum what they thought of it . As far as the critics of the past are concerned we none of us know what they might think of this work or any other ballet that has been staged in the last twenty or thirty years, If they were around now they would also have experienced the dearth of new classically based work that we have. They too might be pleased to see that new works are being made. I don't know and I have no intention of trying to find out.
  8. It is a long time since a new narrative ballet has made such a positive impression on audiences and critics as Winter's Tale did at its London premiere. I think many harboured doubts about its suitability as a subject for ballet but Wheeldon received good advice as far as cutting and adapting the story for ballet treatment is concerned. The work that we saw in London was not perfect but it worked and I expect that it will have been altered for the better in its Canadian staging. I don't think that you can judge any ballet on the basis of streamed performances or DVDs . They are better than nothing but they only ever provide a shadow of the performance as experienced in the theatre. While it may be possible to judge the choreography in pure dance terms it is much more difficult to capture the expressive elements that the work contains. Natalia's comments about the bits of the work which she enjoyed most from the streaming and DVD are the opposite of my experience in the theatre. For me the jollifications of the second act rather overstayed their welcome and were insufficiently varied for my taste. In particular Wheeldon failed to distinguish Perdita and Florizel sufficiently in their choreography from the rest of the people involved in the second act. It was the first and third acts which were most compelling in the theatre because of the range of emotions which were expressed in dance terms. The only changes I should like to see in these acts are a little less lurking behind statues by Leontes as this continues long after the audience has got the message and the recognition scene given longer to register as in London it was over in the blink of an eye. While the oracle at Delphi plays no part in the ballet the restoration of Leontes' daughter to him is an important element of the last act and should be given more time to register. My reservations are little more than quibbles as the ballet does the job it was intended to do. I would urge anyone who can do so to buy a ticket and see it in the flesh. I don't think that you will be disappointed.I have already bought my tickets for the London revival later in the year.
  9. I wonder what sort of budget the Bavarian State Ballet had for its reconstruction of Paquita? While it is true that many European opera and ballet companies receive state subsidies it does not mean that they are all awash with cash. Comparing the ballet company at Munich with those at Paris or La Scala when it comes to the choice of designers or budgets for costumes makes little sense to me. Among other things it assumes that the three companies share a similar level of eminence in their respective countries and the same level of resources is available to each of them. France has seen the arts as a way of projecting its culture and power at least since the reign of Louis XIV, La Scala may not be in Rome but in many ways it operates as if it was. It is the main opera house of Italy and the centre of the country's operatic and balletic activity.Munich does not quite operate in that league. It is a state capital and while its opera company might be able to claim to be the greatest in Germany it can not make that sort of claim about its ballet company. Both Stuttgart and Hamburg have stronger claims because of the choreographers who have worked for them. If any German ballet companies receive lavish funding I would expect it to be these two rather than the Munich company. I have no doubt that the Bavarian State Opera is well funded but I would be very surprised if the ballet company at Munich got anywhere near the same budget as the opera company. The size of its budget will affect every aspect of its activities and in particular the amount of money available to spend on a new production which might be regarded by many as an experiment rather than a production likely to be revived over many seasons. A limited budget does not mean bad design although it does mean that cheaper materials are likely to be used. Having lavish funds does not guarantee that a good designer will be engaged or good costumes produced. But if I had to choose between a reconstruction which had a sound choreographic text based on the Stepanov notation, included all the mime which was part of the production at the time the text was notated and was danced in a period appropriate style and at a period appropriate speed but had cheap uninspired designs and one with a good choreographic text including the mime, with designs based on the original ones but danced in the currently fashionable style with high extensions and tempi so slow that they make a nonsense of Tchaikovsky's score I would choose the reconstruction which showed me the choreography danced in a way that Petipa might recognise as having some connection with his work. Of course I would like good designs too but it is the text including the mime performed in period appropriate style and speed which interests me.
  10. The powers that be at Covent Garden have recently invited audience suggestions of works for revival which have long been out of the repertory. Needless to say there have been many requests for the revival of works which are seen quite regularly and far fewer for rarely performed works which today means most of the Ashton repertory, all of the Diaghilev repertory and anything which suggests that MacMillan was quite an able classical choreographer.Ashton gets a mixed bill most years but he is deemed old fashioned and far less exciting than MacMillan. Wheeldon, Scarlett and McGregor who is regarded as a master choreographer in some quarters. . Now while Kevin O' Hare recently referred to MacMillan's works as company classics he has said that Ashton is central to the repertory. We are still waiting to see just how central, central is in the context of the Ashton repertory. In May we had stunning performances of Fille from Morera. Muntagirov and Kay and we have just had a run of Two Pigeons with both Monotones I and II and another run of Pigeons is due after Christmas with Rhapsody as its companion piece. Of the works mentioned in Ballet Annual I suspect that Cranko's Pastorale and Harlequin in April are incapable of revival but I may be being unduly pessimistic. I have no idea of the extent of the Cranko repertory conserved by the Stuttgart Company.I know that it is more committed to looking after its Cranko repertory than either of the Royal Ballet companies are in conserving and performing Ashton's works. Birmingham Royal Ballet has some Ashton works in its repertory including Fille and Two Pigeons. In 2014 it danced Facade. Les Rendezvous and Dante Sonata in a mixed bill .The Royal Ballet last danced Facade in the 1990's and Les Rendezvous in the 2004-2005 season. The Birmingham performances of Facade and Les Rendezvous which I saw were not cast with as much care as I should have liked.Les Rendezvous is currently saddled with a ghastly re-design which makes a nonsense of Ashton's floor plan because there is a big empty space at the back of the stage rather than park railings and a set of gates and dresses the dancers in truly hideous costumes. However weak the Chappell re-designs were thought to be their replacements are inept.The new designs destroy the mood of the ballet created by its setting and Chappell's vaguely nineteenth century costumes. The men now wear boaters and blazers which suggest the 1920's and the world of Facade and the women wear 1950's style full skirted polka dot decorated dresses and look as if they are wearing washing up gloves.. As far as Capriol Suite is concerned Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet danced it in the 1980's so it must have been notated . I can't remember whether it was part of the celebrations of the company's first fifty years or whether it was part of the celebrations of Ashton's eightieth birthday either seems possible.I went to see it not expecting too much. It is after all a very early work and knowing that it owes its origins to an early dance manual suggests that it will be dutiful rather than interesting. It is a gem of wit and invention, It is going to be one of the works that I suggest should be revived. If Ashton's choreography for Monotones can entrance an audience then Capriol Suite should be equal to the task as well. .
  11. I could not agree more about the opportunities that the old touring company gave to young dancers and choreographers. I think that David Wall said that when he first arrived at Covent Garden he was in awe of his new colleagues until he realised that he had danced more Siegfrieds than any of his colleagues who were dancing it there had. SWTB and its successors gave opportunities for young dancers to dance an extremely wide repertory from the nineteenth century classics, pre war works such as Capriol Suite, Les Rendezvous and Les Patineurs right the way through to the latest works created by its own choreographers and by Ashton. It enabled young dancers and choreographers to learn stage craft and make mistakes away from the glare of publicity. Something singularly lacking at present. I know that Ashton created a pas de six for act 1 for the touring company's Swan Lake which I am told was very beautiful.The interesting thing as far as I am concerned is the number of Important dancers who served their apprenticeship there. There was an obvious decline of standards in the main company which started to show during the later years of MacMIllan's directorship although it was not too obvious because he was able to make his major works on dancers who had been trained and formed by De Valois and Ashton. If I were asked to identify the causes of the decline I would say first de Valois' failure to secure the continued services of Vera Volkova and second MacMillan agreeing to disband the touring company. I know that it was replaced by the New Group which was supposed to bring choreographic enlightenment to the provinces but it probably put more people off ballet for life than it recruited to the cause.Eventually it was replaced by the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet but it took time for it to acquire the nineteenth century classics and its remit did not include acting as a feeder for the main company. Arguably the gap in development opportunities for both dancers and choreographers still affects the company to this day. While I recognise that a company resident at an opera house has to mount a significant number of full length ballets every year those in charge of the Covent Garden company seem to lack the vision to adjust the repertory to include the delightful ballets that helped develop the Vic Wells company and Peter Wright's Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. It has always seemed to me that a formula which worked very effectively for those two companies would work equally well at Covent Garden.It would not be a complete cure all but it would certainly help.Putting on ballets that are technically and stylistically challenging but don't carry the weight of performance history such as the Two Pigeons is a good start except we have had too many dancers cast who don't require development opportunities and ticket sales have been poor. This combined with the out and out critical failures such as Raven Girl, Connectomes and Acosta's Carmen is likely to result in the AD having less freedom over programming in the coming seasons, So we will be back to the same limited range of works programmed regularly with the annual Ashton mixed bill of rarities that should be staple repertory works and all the works restored to the stage by Mason will slip back into the shadows.
  12. JANE, Thank you for that information. I thought that Casse Noisette did not stay in the repertory of Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet for very long.It is good to have confirmation on that point. I sometimes wonder where the ROH recruit the staff who put information about productions on their website and how long they stay. It would appear that whoever it was who put the article together failed to identify Antoinette Sibley as one of the three dancers in the photograph of Sibley, Dowell and Nureyev which was included in it.This leads me to suspect that the same people are probably also involved in putting the ballet programmes together because the production photographs in them frequently fail to identify the dancers correctly. It seems to me that whoever was responsible for the article was so taken with the idea that Nutcracker is an essential part of Christmas at Covent Garden and has been since the year dot that they failed to understand that the photographs of the 1951 production were nothing to do with what was happening at the Royal Opera House. While Nureyev was the first person to stage a full length Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden it was not a regular part of Christmas at the Royal Ballet until Dowell's directorship. I have always thought that not only was it lazy programming on his part and even lazier programming on the part of his successors to programme Nutcracker at Christmas, year in and year out, but unfair on the ENB. After all ENB relies on its box office takings at Christmas to cover its touring losses.As the Royal Ballet does not undertake domestic tours it has always seemed particularly mean spirited for the Covent Garden company to enter into direct competition with one of the few classical companies which does.It is not as if the Royal Ballet has no other ballets it could programme at Christmas. You mention the Alexander Bland history of the Royal Ballet's first Fifty Years. I have a copy but it is in storage at present. So the answer to your question is yes and no.
  13. Ashton's Casse Noisette was created for the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet's first US tour in 1951. It was in two scenes and omitted any story element. According to the Birmingham Royal Ballet website it included Ashton's choreography for the Snowflake and The Kingdom of the Sweets. When Sadler's Wells Ballet became the resident company at Covent Garden de Valois created a new company as a training ground for young dancers. This second company originally called Sadler's Wells Opera Ballet, which suggests that it was providing dancers for the opera company resident at Sadler's Wells, had by the time of the 1951 tour become known as the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. There is no indication in the Royal Opera House Performance Database, which is far from complete, that Ashton's Casse Noisette was ever danced at Covent Garden by either the resident company or by Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.
  14. I know that Peter Wright is credited with the choreography for the 1958 film. Perhaps his autobiography will cast some light on what is his and what derives from Sergeyev's pre war productions.It is quite possible that Peter Wright's choreographic input was limited to rearranging things so that the dancers were in the right position for the cameras,which were far from mobile then, rather than altering the steps that were danced.I think that is probably the reason why de Valois gets a credit for the Royal Ballet's Coppelia which had been set for the Sadler's Well's stage. I recognise that Markova and Dolin introduced the Christmas Nutcracker tradition to London. I have always thought that it was a mistake to make it such a regular feature at Covent Garden, where it now graces the stage four years out of five.I recognise that a revival was inevitable this year because of Sir Peter Wright's ninetieth birthday. A little more variety at Christmas would do us all a lot of good. Coppelia has not been seen at Covent Garden for some years and then there is Cinderella. Mashinka do you know whether Mona Ingoldsby ever staged the Nutcracker? It seems to me that someone needs to write an inclusive history of ballet in Britain in the twentieth century by which I mean one that is not just a history of the Royal Ballet.I know that there is a general lack.of interest in ballet history but such a book is needed. It would be beneficial to us all to put de Valois and her company into context by showing what other people were doing at the time. It would need to discuss the work of people like Ingoldsby and Darrell,and of companies like Ballet Rambert as a classical company and Western Theatre Ballet which became Scottish Ballet. There might be difficulty in finding a publisher but that does not mean that such a book is not needed.
  15. I am not sure that there was much of a tradition of the Nutcracker at Covent Garden before Peter Wright's 1984 production. There do not seem to been any performances of it at the Royal Opera House until Nureyev's 1968 production and that production was not performed only at Christmas. In fact Christmas Past at Covent Garden seems considerably more interesting than Christmas Present Before the Nureyev production the consensus seemed to be that while the score is probably the greatest of Tchaikovsky's ballet scores the choreography was not of comparable quality.Nureyev's production was clearly based on the version that he knew from his time at the Kirov.The link between the two acts,at least by the time that I first saw it, was created by Clara's relatives appearing in the divertisements in the second act. A bad case if too much party and too much excitement. It was a production that appealed to adults and children although some thought it rather dark. Several seasons elapsed between the final performance of that production and the first performance of Peter Wright's production. Although it is now a staple of the repertory I think that quite a few people were disappointed by it when they first saw it. I know that several people were amused by a report that de Valois when asked what she thought of the new production had said words to the effect that she could see no reason to replace the Nureyev production because it was excellent and the best she knew of. Sir Peter's production lovingly tended by him has now acquired the patina of age and authenticity and no doubt there will be an outcry when it is finally pensioned off.The changes to the choreography which Sir Peter has made, since 1984, enable Clara and Hans Peter to play an active part in both acts. Clara is now played by a company member rather than by a student from the school. Pre 1968 the company seemed to rub along quite well at Christmas with Cinderella and ballets other than Nutcracker.. As to what the 1930's productions looked like the ICA Classics DVD of Fonteyn and Somes dancing Tchaikovsky Ballet Masterpieces may provide a clue..
  16. Great Swanhildas I should have liked to have seen? Genee is definitely at the top of my list, followed by Lopokhova, Nerina,Beriosova and Jenner. Not necessarily a great Swanhilda but an intriguing one De Valois who took over from Lopokhova. As to the impact that Genee had on her audiences according to Ivor Guest there were people in the audience at the Vic Wells initial performance of Coppelia whose response to Mrs Keynes was that she was not a patch on Genee.Clearly her 1906 Coppelia had left a strong impression on those who saw her. Someone asked whose choreography she danced, well, according to Guest, it was devised by her uncle, a dancer, who adopted her when she was a child. Great Swanhildas I have seen. I think the best was Brenda Last a dancer who lit up the stage with her first entrance in every ballet she danced and had a technique that was so quick and clean She was also a great Lise and danced that role more times than anyone including Nerina.I also loved Barbieri and Hatley in the role. It was in SWRB repertory for years but not danced at Covent Garden,for some reason, which is why we never saw Collier as Swanhilda.As far as recordings are concerned ICA Classics have issued a DVD of a number of ballets in which Nerina appears. One is a heavily cut two act Coppelia with Nerina as Swanhilda and Helpmann as Coppelius. The cuts make you wish that it included act 3 as the dancing is so full of life. Here is a story about the RBS Covent Garden matinee that you might enjoy.In 1976 the ballet was Coppelia Susan Lucas was Swanhilda and David Bintley was Coppelius,at nineteen he was one of the best I have ever seen. The performance was great fun but one of the critics chose to point out that Lucas had wobbled a bit when she performed the section with the mirror. Nerina wrote a letter which was published in which she suggested that the critic concerned did not know what he was talking about. As I recall she said that if anyone knew what was, and was not, easy to dance it was her rather than the critic and that far from being easy to dance it was very difficult to perform that section really well and she had not noticed the defects that the critic claimed to have observed.
  17. Well Two Pigeons and Rhapsody are due to be screened in January with the first night cast from this run due as the cast for the screening.Anyone interested in the critic's response to the revival can find them on Ballet co Forum's web site's links with the daily press for yesterday and today. I don't think that Cuthbertson's 2011 Sleeping Beauty was her finest hour either. But I have seen her give much better performances and I do not think that I lower my standards when I watch her performances.I will admit that I am averse to the Rose Adagio being reduced to an Olympic event.with Aurora clearly going for gold as it has the unfortunate effect of distorting the ballet's structure and rendering the the third act's grande pas de deux considerably less than grand, I seem to recall that Cuthbertson had the best part of eighteen months off with injury followed by ME before this performance.Perhaps management was at fault as I think it was when Darcey Bussell, fresh from maternity leave, was first night cast of Sylvia. That perhaps was explicable as the ballet had been absent from the stage so long but it did not stop it being a daft decision. .Each of us have dancers we would prefer not to see and the answer is not to book for them.If someone says that the dancer concerned is very effective in a role the answer is either to go and see them in the role which entitles you comment about their performance or to stay away. If you choose to stay away from that dancer's performances then you are not in a position to comment on them. .
  18. Last night saw a major revival of Ashton's Two Pigeons at Covent Garden after a gap of thirty years. While.London has not been without performances of the ballet during that time as both Birmingham Royal Ballet and its predecessor company have occasionally performed it in London and the Royal Ballet School used to perform it quite often as part of its annual stage performance the fact remains that the Covent Garden company has chosen to ignore it.We did not even get the final pas de deux during the Ashton centenary celebrations.Its absence from the stage would have been understandable if it was a bad ballet but it is actually a very good ballet with three great roles for the principal dancers. The first night cast Cuthbertson, Muntagirov and Morera were excellent.I will say a bit more about the ballet and their performance when I have seen some of the other casts. The quality of the performance has set the bar very high for the other casts during this run and makes the neglect of this work in the last thirty years totally inexplicable. Eagling's Frankenstein has left few lasting memories and would not be on my list of ballets that need to be revived.It had some excellent stage effects but I think that the most important thing about it was that it was the first ballet in which Jonathan Cope was given a role of any significance.He was the monster.
  19. As the topic has shifted its focus may I point you in another direction as far as English fiction is concerned ? The rural novel a genre favoured by great writers such as Thomas Hardy and lesser ones like Mary Webb.Their books are not concerned with the middle classes but with the rural working poor, usually living in remote locations such as rural Dorset, whose way of life, the author and their readers liked to believe, was untouched by the rapid changes which had affected the town dweller.The characters in these novels live simpler and more "real" lives than the town dweller ever can. Stella Gibbons' novel Cold Comfort Farm sends up the entire genre and effectively demolished Webb's reputation. Although it was published in 1932 it is still very funny.Gibbons clearly has the authors of overwrought sentences in her sights. She assists by drawing the reader's attention to her best prose passages and grading them. Enjoy!
  20. I imagine that you will get archival footage of Plisetskaya dancing Bejart's Bolero but shorn of her account of Bejart standing at the back of the auditorium giving her visual cues to assist her in performance because she had difficulty in remembering it. There are plenty of opera goers in Britain who are quite comfortable with the use of the term "Eurotrash" when it is applied to opera productions burdened by their director's concepts.Such productions tell you a great deal about the director's preoccupations and obsessions but rarely give you much idea about the work that the composer and librettist thought they had produced.They are usually described as "challenging" in pre-performance publicity and seem to be prompted by the perpetrator's boundless belief in his or her own genius and fueled by his/her intense indifference to the score and original libretto.The strange thing is that although their ideas are supposedly novel they seem to be driven by fashion. World War I is very fashionable at present.If the war remains fashionable for each centennial year we have another three years to go before we shall be free of that particular concept. I have no problem if the word is used to describe a certain type of trendily fashionable dance work which is little more than a pretentious title accompanied by an accumulation of atmospheric lighting;underwear; a limited range of stereotypical movement and several pages of programme notes proclaiming the choreographer's genius.
  21. As you surmised Drew I said "informed by" knowledge of past performance practice for the very reasons that you outlined. We can not alter dancers physically but perhaps recruiting a wider range of physical types into training would assist as would attempting to cast dancers who are suited to the type of variation to be danced rather than the one size fits all casting that we so often see.It can be very difficult to understand why Ashton should have referred to watching the Prologue Fairy variations as taking private lessons with Petipa as today they often seem dull and uninteresting.If we can not recapture all of Petipa's style there are elements that are within our grasp such as his musicality which is capable of being restored to the stage .It seems to me that a good starting point is to assume when it comes to a work like the Sleeping Beauty that Petipa knew what he was doing with the structure of the ballet and the tempo at which the various sections of it should be danced. He spent a lot of time on that aspect of his new ballet as can be seen from the detailed minutage that he provided for Tchaikovsky. We have all become used to the edited highlights/ Olympic competition performance of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake in which the choreographic text seems to be placed at the service of the dancers' technique rather than the dancers placing their technical skills at the service of the choreographer. We seem not only to have accepted that new tours de force should be incorporated into Petipa's works because of the "technical advances"that have taken place since they were created but that the music should be distorted in order to accommodate them. The last time Rojo performed Sleeping Beauty she held her balances in the Rose Adagio for so long that I was surprised that we had not been issued with stop watches in order to time her. Of course the problem then was that because the tempo is usually set by the the first night cast those who were not going for gold were put at something of a disadvantage at subsequent performances.Another more significant problem was that by doing this she destroyed the structure of the work and the grand pas de deux in act 3 fell decidedly flat. There seem to be a lot of people about who seem to think that the only bits of Petipa's ballets that are worth showing are the sections which contain obvious dance,even if they then proceed to mangle them to suit current tastes and expectations. The stager has the ability to choose between edited highlights or staging the choreographic context in which Petipa intended them to appear. After all if the choreographer stages a procession or mime sequence that is as much his choreography as are the more obvious dance numbers. I, for one, find it very sad that the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty no longer contains much more than a truncated hunting scene because that scene is clearly intended to ease the transition from the prince's "real world" to a place in which the vision scene will take place. But as the management is no longer prepared to charge a bit extra for tickets because going past ten thirty means overtime payments for the orchestra or to start half an hour earlier the scene is cut drastically.Needless to say I have friends who would happily see it disappear altogether because "it is boring and contains no dancing". Watching films of ballets that you know well can be illuminating as far as showing how much performance style has changed as a result of fashion.There is a film that crops up from time to time on the internet of the Royal Ballet's 1977 production of the Sleeping Beauty the performance style is so different from what we have become used to that it comes as a bit of a shock to the "informed " internet followers of ballet according to whom Merle Park does not do high arabesques because of her advanced age,while the prologue fairies don't know how to dance.The Prologue is particularly interesting as the fairies were drawn from the ranks of the company's principals and were cast to provide the sort of contrasts that the choreographer must have intended. Needless to say their performance style is somewhat different from what we see now as it is quick and light rather than slow and somewhat ponderous. The recording is of great historic significance, it seems to me,as it preserves de Valois' final restaging of the work which replaced two short lived productions by the two men who succeeded her as director. It is the work of a woman who was born in 1898, had worked in the Diaghilev company for a couple of years and had been in the company when the famous London production of the Sleeping Princess was performed.She said that in her production she was restoring the text that the company had previously danced with some modifications all of which were carefully recorded. I should have loved to have had an opportunity to see Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty. I hope that it is retained in the repertory of both companies that were involved in its staging so that I get a chance to see it.One thing that struck me during the course of the three days during which the colloquium was held and that was the description of Marius Petipa as a performer which was mentioned a couple of times. It would appear that he lacked elevation but was a good actor.I wonder does his own lack of elevation explain his love of petite batterie ? Do we in the West have a rather lopsided view of the man and his work because of the choices that de Valois made about the ballets she wanted Sergeyev to stage for her company? She chose works of great historical significance both choreographically and musically but they are none of them typical of the narrative works that made Petipa's reputation. I can't wait for 2018.In the meantime we would probably be well advised to brush up on our ability to read French if not speak it fluently.It could well come in handy at the 2018 Petipa Conference, if this year's colloquium is anything to go by, and if anyone is going to produce a work on Petipa comparable to the one on Ivanov there is no guarantee that it will be available in English initially. If it is published in Russian it may well find its way into French long before it does into English.
  22. I feel that I must thank Katherine Barber for telling us about this colloquium. I don't think that I would have known about it if it hadn't been for her.The colloquium was held inside Le Grand Theatre de Bordeaux and although the French word "grand"only indicates that it is a big theatre it is extremely grand in the English sense of the word.It was worth the fee to be able to walk up and down the main staircase several times a day.Bordeaux was chosen for the initial conference because the Petipa family lived in Bordeaux for several years after Petipa's father lost his job in Brussels after the 1830 Revolution. The colloquium brought a large number of experts on Petipa, the man, dancer and choreographer together as well as people expert on early systems of dance notation and the revival of nineteenth century ballets in period appropriate form and style. It was fascinating for all sorts of reasons some of which the organisers could not possibly have envisaged.It all began extremely well with everything being translated into the various official languages as and when necessary.On the second and third days there were no English translators available and no copies of the papers to be delivered in French. However all the papers to be delivered in Russian were available to delegates in French translations. I understand that in due course delegates will receive copies of all the papers delivered at the conference.I am not at all clear as to whether they will be made available to the general public in due course.I suppose that the organisers may wait until the bicentenary of Petipa's birth and then gather all the papers delivered at the two conferences and publish them then when they can be certain of considerably more interest and a wider circulation than might be the case at present. What lasting impression did I bring away from the colloquium? I recognise that I may be doing many of the delegates a disservice by saying this, but I thought that a significant number of those present at the conference were more interested in the idea of Petipa than the reality of what his ballets might look like if serious efforts were undertaken to perform his ballets with appropriate technical style and musicality and restore them to a state that he might recognise as his work.I suppose the thing is that while the argument as to whether performance style in music should be informed by knowledge of period practice and performance style has been won, with the result that no one who wants to be taken seriously as a musician would try to argue that Bach should be re-orchestrated and played by a post Wagnerian symphony orchestra because he would have used those orchestral resources if they had been available to him, a significant proportion of those involved in the world of dance don't even recognise the need for a debate about performance style.It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty and next year's Swan Lake have on the collective dance aesthetic and performance practice both in the West and in Russia.The recent announcement of the new Bolshoi appointment raises the possibility that things might change a bit more than seemed possible even a few months ago. After all Grigorovitch is not immortal is he?.
  23. Anyone planning to come over to see performances at Covent Garden during the Spring season will find that casting details for both Winter's Tale and Frankenstein are now on the opera house's website.Wheeldon has given his unscheduled second cast the opportunity to repeat their roles as second cast in this revival which will please many. All three casts will be worth seeing. Frankenstein looks good on paper too.
  24. Stecyk I take your point about the marketing department looking for trends in attendance rather than individual audience experience.However someone at the ROH was responsible for setting up the arrangements for screening performances in North America and that person ought to be interested if local arrangements are less than perfect. The late notification of venues for screening and mistakes over the time at which they will occur must have had an impact on the size of the current audience and may well put people off attending screenings in the future. Of course the Opera House has no control over what goes on locally but those involved in putting the arrangements in place ought to be made aware of their current audience's dissatisfaction with what is happening on the ground.They have responded to complaints about breaks in transmission at particular cinemas in the past.But of course I don't know if anything more came of the complaints apart from it being acknowledged.But if you do nothing the chances are that the number of venues screening Royal Ballet performances will dwindle to a few in a couple of big cities. Anyone interested in telling the ROH about their experience of the screening or the problems associated with late or inaccurate information about the screening could try putting "Your Reaction to Romeo and Juliet Screening" into their search engine.I don't pretend to understand the workings of the mind that put the ROH website together . It probably seems perfectly obvious and logical to them. It's just a pity that it doesn't seem quite so obvious to mere mortals.
  25. Might I suggest that you post some of your comments about the problem with the Royal Ballet's cinema exposure in North America on the ROH's website where they invite comments on the performances.Someone might notice it there. It is always difficult to know how much information gets back to the people at the top.about the sort of thing that you are describing.I suspect that very little does. It is my impression that the marketing department would be more aptly described as the department that counts the bums on seats at the Royal Opera House.
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